But for the 10% of people who are still with me – let’s talk scissors. Specifically, that thing you’ve read not to do but do anyway – cutting with right-handed scissors. Although I’m thinking mainly of sewing scissors here, everything applies to other types of scissors too.
You’ve probably read that the best thing to do is to always use special left-handed scissors. They’re properly designed for left-handed use, they’re more comfortable and they’re easier to use.
It makes sense – if you’re left-handed, you should choose left-handed scissors. So why do us lefties spend so much of our time trying to cut things with normal right-handed scissors?!
Looking through my scissors stash (yes, I can create a stash out of anything) only a small number are actually left-handed scissors. I have a couple of pairs of good dressmakers’ shears which are left-handed, and a pair of left-handed applique scissors – and I only bought those as a novelty item because I didn’t know you could get them.
- Left-handed scissors are harder to get hold of. Typically you have to order them especially online – you can’t just wander into your local stationers and pick up a pair off the shelf (or if you’re lucky enough to find them, there’s no choice).
- If you share your household with a bunch of right-handers, then any random pair of scissors you pick up will probably by right-handed. Often you just can’t be bothered to go in search of particular scissors.
- Right-handed scissors tend to be cheaper. Yes, the quality may not be the best, but for a pair of scissors dedicated to living in the sellotape drawer, you don’t really want to splash out – especially when they always seem to go walkabout and need replacing on a regular basis.
- Some specialist scissors just aren’t available in left-handed versions – I cannot track down a pair of left-handed pinking shears, for example.
- After many years of nearly exclusively using right-handed scissors, actually using left-handed ones feels strange and awkward.
- All the pretty scissors are right-handed! Shallow, yes, but I want to own nice things too – why should right-handers get all the good stuff?
The problem with right-handed scissors
Right handed scissors have the top blade on the right, while left-handed scissors have the top blade on the left. There is no such thing as a pair of scissors suitable for both left-handed and right-handed use – they can only suit one or the other. This video from Anything Lefthanded has a great explanation of the difference between the two.
If you’re trying to use right-handed scissors, then there are three main problems:
- Uncomfortable grip
Some right-handed scissors have moulded grips that fit the shape of the hand and make them more comfortable to hold. That’s if you’re right handed. If you’re left-handed, these moulded handles are extremely uncomfortable, digging into the hands in all the wrong places.
If you have to use right-handed scissors, avoid these if at all possible – you won’t be able to use them for anything more than small bouts of cutting.
- Tension in your hand
Right-handed scissors are designed so that the natural movement of the hand pushes the blades together, which results in a good clean cut. That is of course, the natural movement of the right hand. The natural movement of your left hand has the opposite effect – it forces the blades apart. If you’ve spent much time using right-handed scissors, then you probably automatically compensate for this by squeezing the blades together as you cut – this can result in a lot of tension in your left hand.
There’s not a lot you can do about this – the tension is necessary to hold the blades together. But try to stop regularly and relax your hand to avoid cramping, and don’t do too much cutting in one session.
- Not being able to see what you’re doing
A leftie’s natural cutting motion is to cut clockwise. Right-handed scissors have the top blade on the right, which is on the inside, and so it blocks the cutting line, making it difficult to be accurate.
Below are some tips to help with cutting accurately along the cutting line.
How to cut small shapes with right-handed scissors
- Cut anti-clockwise.If you’re left-handed, your natural instinct is to cut in a clockwise direction. When using right-handed scissors, though, this means that the top blade is obscuring your view of the cutting line. Cutting anti-clockwise feels more awkward but allows you to see the cutting line better.
- Hold the material you’re cutting at an angle so you can see the other side of the line.Rather than holding the material flat in front of you, tilt it towards the right and hold it slightly further to your right, so you can see over the top of the scissors to the cutting line. Remember to angle the scissors as well, so that they are at right angles to the material (so you need to tilt them slightly to the right as well).
- Cut horizontally across your body rather than directly away from yourself.If you have the scissors in your left-hand, then you need to hold the material you’re cutting in your right. But if you’re cutting anti-clockwise as I suggest, the material you want to hold in your right hand is over to your left… Instead of cutting directly away from yourself, try cutting horizontally across your body. This will allow you to grip the material in your right hand without having to contort yourself too much.
- Rotate the material to go round curves rather than the scissors.
If you cut clockwise, then to cut round curves you hold the material steady and gradually change the angle of the scissors. If you’re going anti-clockwise as I suggest, it’s harder to rotate your wrist to move the scissors; it’s an unnatural angle. It’s far easier to rotate the material in your right hand to match the curve.
Cutting larger pieces with right-handed scissors
I’m thinking specifically here of large-scale cutting out, where you might be cutting on a table or even the floor. The main points from the previous section will still help:
But larger pieces are too big to hold at odd angles and rotate as I suggested in the previous section.
When dealing with larger pieces you have less manoeuvrability, so you’ll need to keep moving yourself around to get into position – lots of space helps.
There’s a limit to what you can really do here, but I find it helps to angle yourself so you’re looking down on top of the cutting line, as far over to the left as you can. I prefer to cut large pieces roughly (a rotary cutter is great for this) and then do detailed cutting holding the material at an angle as in the previous section.
There’s no escaping the basic problem – if you’re a left-hander cutting with right-handed scissors then you’re trying to use a tool that is not designed for you. Proper left-handed scissors or a rotary cutter which can easily be adapted for either right or left-handed use really are the best options where possible. But if you find yourself with little choice, then I hope these tips are useful. And if you have any tips of your own to share, please add them in the comments for all to benefit!